The Patient Plan by Ellen Marcantano

Amelia Watson, my new patient, is due at one o’clock She shows up at one ten. Her completed patient information shows she’s twenty-four and unmarried. She writes “Trust Fund” in the space for occupation. 

 Amelia’s a toned, amber blonde with blueberry tinted eyes. Her shoes scream money. A white silk top off sets her tan. A frosty aura surrounds her along with the warm scent of Gucci.     

“Hello Amelia, I’m Susan Travis, your therapist. Please come into my office and take a seat.”

No response, not even an eye blink.

 She walks into my office and stops to sniff the two dozen, red and white roses on my desk. Daniel sent me these this morning for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. She crosses the room towards the sofa. She balances herself on the edge of the cushion.  

Amelia stares at me and the edges of her mouth form a sneer. I note a renegade tooth. Her only visible flaw. 

“Amelia, how can I help you today?” 

Silence slithers around the office with the stealth of a copperhead snake. 

 A twinge of annoyance grabs me, and I rephrase the question.

“What brings you here today?”

 Amelia’s a difficult patient. It’s not my place to judge but, screw it, I don’t like her. 

Amelia crosses her arms in front of her chest in a classic defensive posture. 

She speaks, “The flowers your husband sent you differ from the ones he sends me.  I hate white roses.” 

 The floor shifts underneath me. “Excuse me?” 

“Daniel and I love each other.” Amelia squints and raises her top lip with smug satisfaction. 

She calls him Daniel.

Kaboom. The Mad Hatter sits on my couch.  Mini rockets ram into my solar plexus. I can’t get air into my lungs.

I don’t want Amelia to watch my hands shake and I interlock my fingers.  

 A chilled, dry martini floats in front of my eyes and I want to reach up and gulp. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and wish this hydra headed beast out of my office. 

Amelia’s amused, a satisfied wheeze escapes through her nose.

“I imagined you prettier, you’re at least ten years older than me. I guess Daniel upgraded to a newer model. Your girl’s cute, she gets her looks from her Dad.” She bows her head and picks at fluffy nothings in her lap. Her bracelets jingle.

I stiffen. I’m wet wash on a laundry line in zero temperatures. My face is scarlet hot. How did she meet my daughter?  

“I won’t discuss my family with you, not today, never. Here’s a card with the name of another therapist. Use it, you need help.” I hold out the card and she won’t take it. 

Amelia engages in a frenzy of eye blinks and cracks her neck side to side. A stress response. 

She regroups and leans forward. “You will give Daniel a divorce.”  

“If you don’t stop, I’ll lock you up in a psychiatric hospital.” I slip my hand in my jacket pocket and finger my phone. Security.

 She leans back and pokes her index finger in and out of a large hoop earring in her left ear and hums. I half expect her to rise and float in midair, and I want to rip her shoes off and check for cloven hoofs. 

 If I move, I’ll slide off the chair and disintegrate into a rumpled pile of clothes on the floor.

“You’ll leave right now. If you don’t get the hell out of my office, I’m calling the police.”

Her laugh dances around the room. 

“And say what? Your husband prefers to sleep with me and you’re jealous? I’ll make it my goal, you therapists get off on setting goals, to broadcast my affair with Dr. Daniel Travis. I’ll tell all the members of your country club, about our affair. And, let’s not forget your golf club, charity boards, yacht club, and PTA of your kid’s stuck up snotty school. Your life is now my life.”

She gets up, walks towards my desk, removes a red rose from the vase, slams the door and leaves. I run and throw the deadbolt. 

A bevy of bat wings thump inside my stomach. Tectonic plates in my brain shift. The room whirls as I go over the events of the past half hour. Doubt tip toes in and seats itself. Suppose this super charged libido on legs is telling the truth?

Inconsistencies and incongruities in my fifteen-year relationship with Daniel surface and taunt me. He attended a dental conference in October, missed the plane and stayed an extra day.  Thursday nights he plays poker with the guys. Or, not.  He’s often late coming home from the office, skips dinner, showers and goes to bed.  

I’ll call the police to report a threat, but verbal lacerations aren’t threats.  I counsel sick people every day. She’s no different.  Except she is

I slump in my chair. Life calamities don’t tap me on the shoulder. My knowledge of human behavior enables me to fend them off with an invisible cloak. Other people to go splat on the sidewalk, not me.  

My jacket rings. “Hi Daniel, yes, Mario’s Restaurant at seven.  Love you too.”

A rose scent fills the room. I walk to my desk, grab the roses and heave them in the trash.

Ellen Marcantano’s work has appeared in Dime Show Review and Helen: A Literary Magazine.

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